Zoe was dressed to kill. She was going to celebrate her graduation in style, and she was going to enjoy it. Graduating college was a large milestone in her life, one that she was immensely proud of. Had anyone from her high school met her now they would not have recognized her. She was still pretty. Perfect skin and all that, but she had become a major bookworm. She no longer spent her afternoons shaking pompoms; now she spent as much time as possible in the library or on the academic quad.
" Zoe! Get your ass down here!" A voice interrupted her thinking, and she came floating back to reality.
" I'm coming! Hold your damn horses." Zoe smoothed her blond hair to make sure it was still in place and grabbed her leather jacket. She wore tight dark jeans that showed off her lower body and all the right curves. Pairing this with a crème Victorian blouse and black heels she felt sexy yet still young. Young enough to be a freshman in college. Plus she enjoyed the lightweight short-sleeved top and wore it as often as possible. Her honey blond hair she had let loose in soft waves around her shoulders. After high school she had forgotten to cut it because of all the schoolwork and let it grow. It was now the length of her shoulder blades, and she never regretted growing it out.
" Zoe!" she heard Sam's voice from downstairs and shouted back that she was on her way. She crossed the short hallway and started down the stairs.
" You look fabulous!" she greeted her flat mate Sam. He looked good in his dark jeans and white top. It actually reminded her of what she was wearing, and when he held out his leather jacket she laughed.
" What? Now we can be twins!" he grinned and it must have been contagious because she found the same one on her face.
" Fine. But if I get any shit about it I will personally kick your ass and hand it to you."
" Fine. Have it your way." He threw on his jacket in mock diva style and pranced out the door. " You coming?"
" Yeah yeah, I'm coming." She grabbed her keys and locked the door behind them. They lived in an apartment on Federal Hill, a downtown district of Baltimore Maryland. She had moved there with the intention of joining the Annapolis Naval Academy, but one visit had stopped everything.
4 years ago
" Are you sure?" Zoe questioned her teacher who nodded.
" Yes. There is a Lt. Ryan waiting for you in the front office. Go ahead, I'm sure its just one of those survey things." Ms. Cloud went back to teaching her senior class about simple random sampling as Zoe gathered her books and headed to the front office. Maybe she had gotten declined from Annapolis and they had sent someone here in person. She made her way to the front office and opened the glass door. Yes, there was a man in lieutenant's uniform standing in the front office. He had his hands behind his back and stood straighter than a rod. She had been so used to Shane standing like that that she didn't think anything of it. She didn't think anything of it when he frowned at seeing her approach.
" Miss Plummer I presume."
" Yes. Hello sir." Zoe held out her hand to be shaken and she was met with a firm grasp and a proud brown eyes.
" Can we talk somewhere else?"
" Well, this is about as private as it gets. What can I help you with?"
In the next fifteen minutes Zoe's world fell apart. She slumped to the hard floor, silently crying. Her shoulders did not move, she made no sound, but tears streamed down her face. The office watched as she hit the floor with a quiet thud and sat there in absolute shock. Several students made a move to help her but stopped when they saw her move. Zoe looked up at them and then let her face fall into her hands. Covering her face she realized what he had just told her. Shane was dead.
" You look fantastic!" Her friends greeted Zoe when they reached the dimly lit table. They were in the middle of a crowded dance club named Orion. It had taken nearly an hour before they had been allowed inside, and Zoe's feet had given up on her about fifteen minutes into that hour. Taking off her shoes for a quick minute she grinned at her best friend Michelle.
" Remind me never to wear them ever again." Her friend smiled and grinned sympathetically.
" Sorry Zoe. But hey, you look fabulous. So chin up. We graduated!" with a loud yell she and the four others with her yelled a victory cheer that Zoe couldn't help but join in on. She signaled the bartender over a minute later and ordered a scotch on the rocks. She knew that she wouldn't be able to handle more than four drinks, five at most, so she warned her friends.
" I do not, I repeat not, want to spend the night puking in my toilet. Got it? Now here's to the class of 2006! Yeah!" she and her friends knocked back their drinks in less than a minute, and then they got up to dance.
"Come on Zoe!" her friend Christopher dragged her onto the dance floor where they hipped, hopped, and bopped to every cheesy tune that came on. In fact, when Crazy Town by Butterfly came on, they all formed a Congo line with a few other people on the floor. B y the end of the night almost everyone was wasted and they stumbled out of the bar. Christopher, a twenty-seven year old with a masters in Forensic Science, actually tried to leap a parking meter but leapt over a fire hydrant instead.
" I missed it!" he slurred to the giggling group, and Zoe laughed. She had knocked back about four whiskeys and 2 scotches and her head was buzzing like a bee's nest.
" You jumped the wrong thing you idiot!" she playfully shoved his shoulder and he grinned.
" I want to go to another pub! Lets go to another one!" Sam was so drunk that no one could understand his words but simply watched as he threw himself down on the sidewalk with a groan. " I am never getting up!" Michelle staggered over to where her boyfriend lay and she kicked him lightly with her toe.
" We have to find our- wait. What was I saying?" she giggled helplessly to herself and she tried to remember what she was saying.
" We have to go home!" Zoe agreed. But which direction was home?
After winding their way through the dark streets for the better part of the night Zoe found her apartment. She ushered everyone inside the 3 bedroom 2-bathroom residence and everyone collapsed. Michelle and Sam took his bedroom, no surprise, and Christopher and Sean and Melissa took the living room floor. After dropping unceremoniously onto her bed Zoe grinned. She had graduated. No more papers, no more class, no more teachers, no more school. It was exciting, and strangely liberating. The last thing that went through her mind before sleep hit her was how Shane would be proud of her. Anyone who peeked in on her after she fell asleep would have seen a small smile on her peaceful face.
Zoe woke up the next morning with little more than a headache. Stumbling top the shower she turned on the cold water first, waiting for the chilly stream to wake her up. Next she turned on the hot water and began to shower. She used her favorite shampoo, it smelled like peach blossoms, and then she shaved and washed the rest of her body with a lavender scented body wash. Stepping out of the shower she wrapped herself in a big fluffy white towel and headed back to her room. Today she was going to go job hunting, so she needed to look nice and professional. She had graduated college majoring in Criminal Justice and with a minor in Forensic science. Adding to her accomplishments she also spoke 3 languages now: French, Russian, and Italian. All this and a few things more were what she had been working towards for four years. She wanted to be a federal agent, preferably for FBI, and she had an interview today. However, if the interview didn't go well she would have to job hunt. Hence the looking nice. Zoe reached into her closet and pulled out black pants, a red cotton tank top, and a black blazer. Reaching into her shoe rack she pulled out a comfortable pair or black heels and she got ready. Half an hour later she stood in her living room trying to find her purse when Michelle came out from Sam's room, wearing less than she had entered in.
" Up already?"
" You know me. I have that meeting with the guys at FBI today. You look like you had a busy night." Michelle scoffed, and tossed her auburn hair. Michelle was a trust fund baby, and she had only gone to college so her father could say she had worked for the company she was going to inherit. With the face of a vogue cover girl and the body of a supermodel Michelle was by far the most gorgeous girl Zoe knew.
" Well, don't have too much fun okay? And I want you to come over to dad's later, we want you for dinner." Hah. Her dads. The man lived in a mansion to rival Brad Pitt's, and he seemed to think that private jets were standard in American homes. The man had four.
" Sure. But I have to go. The FBI waits for no one. Love you." She gave her friend a hug and headed out the door. Heading towards her car Zoe noticed that she had left without her purse. After retrieving the elusive item she finally got into her car, a silver BMW convertible. It had been a gift from her mom four years ago, and she kept it in excellent condition. She reversed out of her parking spot and was overcome with a feeling of de ja vu. She remembered how Shane had given her driving lessons, or at least the only ones that mattered. She had become a pro thanks to his teaching, and she was proud to say she had never been in an accident. Pulling out onto the streets of downtown Zoe headed for the federal building she knew was located only a few miles away. She was in for a hell of a day.
" Z-O-E. P-L-U-M-M-E-R. Zoe Plummer, I have an 11 o clock appointment with the director." Zoe was so exasperated with the secretary, so much so that she was now tapping both her foot and her nails in perfect rhythm.
" I'm sorry but I don't see any mention of your name in here. Perhaps it was for another day? Or maybe another time today, but I don't see your name. What was your meeting in reference to?" Zoe had already explained to this bawdy woman who wore bejeweled spectacles that she was here for a job interview. Three times. With a sigh she began her now rehearsed speech about how she had a meeting with the director about a job appointment at eleven. Finally she convinced the woman to actually buzz the director.
" Yes Sarah?" a gruff voice answered her call. Zoe stood at attention. There was something familiar about the voice, but she shrugged it off as the woman carried on.
" There is a woman here who says that she has a meeting with you in" pausing to check her watch she continued, " nine minutes."
" And there is no record of the woman in the database." After a long pause Zoe heard him continue, receiving tingles down her spine. The voice was defiantly familiar, but she simply couldn't place it. She let her eyes wander around the waiting room as she waited for a response. She noticed four agents standing by the door, and there were three people waiting for their turns through the double doors to Zoe's right. She noticed the high tech security system for entry. There were two biometric sensors, along with a key card and a voice analyzer. No one was getting in there if they didn't belong.
" Well, then send her in." Zoe snapped back to attention as the voice that sent tingles of familiarity came back on. The secretary, Zoe noted that her name was Laura, and she headed over to the double doors. Not quite sure how to get in she glanced back at the secretary who pressed a button located somewhere in or on her desk. The doors opened and Zoe was greeted with a spectacular view of the Chesapeake Bay. The room had an entire glass wall that looked out onto the bay, and then Zoe looked around the room.
She didn't really focus on the man at first, although in retrospect she wished she had. She noticed the emblem of the bureau on the wall, the mahogany desk, even the pens that were on the table. Then she focused on the face, and then everything spun into black.